2: Essay excerpt, Grace Aguilar's "The Character of Esther," 1845.
Grace Aguilar (1816-1847) was an English-Jewish author, educator, and religious reformer whose books were translated into French, German, and Hebrew, and distributed across the British Empire, Europe, and the United States. She is considered a pioneering Anglo-Jewish writer, who advocated for Jewish rights in the secular political world and for women’s rights within the Jewish world. Despite her struggles with illness and her early death at the age of thirty-one, she was a prolific writer. In the attached excerpt from her work The Women of Israel, Aguilar explains what she finds admirable about the character of Esther, praising her for her expression of ideal femininity, traits that she felt prevented her from being considered a true "heroine," but did allow her to fulfill her destiny of saving the Jewish people.
Suggested Activity: Have your students read the passage and discuss: in what ways does Aguilar see Esther as a role model for modern women? How does this resonate with students’ own readings of the Book of Esther? What kinds of values about femininity does Aguilar’s reading support? In what ways do students appreciate this portrait of Esther and in what ways does it bother them?
Source: Grace Aguilar, The Women of Israel: Volume 2: Or, Characters and Sketches from the Holy Scriptures, and Jewish History. (Cambridge University Press, 2010 (Originally published in 1845.)) p. 161-163, 167.